Honolulu is one of the most culturally immersed destinations you can choose for your vacation, and the Honolulu Museum of Art, HoMA, seeks to preserve Hawaiian and Oceanic culture, and create transformative experiences through art for their patrons. Check out all there is to see and do at Hawaii’s best art museum.
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Museum of Art History
The Honolulu Museum of Art was founded in 1922 as the Honolulu Academy of Arts and was the vision of Anna Rice Cooke, who was a missionary to the islands in 1853. The Cooke Estate is the site of the museum; however, the Cooke home was torn down and a new, revival mission style mansion was constructed to house the museum which was opened to the public in the spring of 1927.
Anne Cooke also created the first visual arts museum in Hawaii, which was dedicated to the multicultural landscape of the islands and featured pieces from the Cooke’s personal collection of pottery, textiles, and artworks. The Honolulu Museum of Art now also includes a library, educational wing, gift shops, and café all constructed between 1956 and 1969 as well as a theater, galleries and administrative offices that were added on in 1977. In the late 1980s, an arts center offering classes was added and the permanent collection had grown from 500 to 50,000 pieces that encompassed 5,000 years of cultural and artistic expression from Oceania, Africa, and the Americas.
In 2011 The Contemporary Museum, which was built by Anna Rice Cook as well, gifted its collection and assets to the Honolulu Academy of Arts. The merger prompted the name change of the Academy to the Honolulu Museum of Art.
The Museum of Art Collection
The Honolulu Museum of Art’s collection began with the 4,500-piece Cooke Collection belonging to Anne Rice Cooke in 1927. Today the collection boasts more than 50,000 pieces than span five millennia and represents all major cultures in Hawaii from ancient to modern times. The entire collection is broken down into three categories which have their own subcategories:
Asian Art- Japanese Woodblock prints, Asian Art
European/American Collection- 17th and 18th Century Works, 19th Century Works, 20th Century Works, antiquity, Arts of Hawaii, European and American Prints and Drawings, Medieval and Renaissance.
Textiles Collection- Textiles
Honolulu Museum of Art Exhibitions
The Honolulu Museum of Art offers specially curated exhibitions that are rotated throughout the year and sometimes as one-time-only exhibits. Most of the exhibitions are curated from the HoMA collection; however, the triennial Artists of Hawaii Exhibition offers open calls for new arts-based in Hawaii. This exhibition has been curated since 1950 and seeks to bring fresh new perspectives each year.
Some of the past exhibitions at HoMA include:
- Shahnameh: The Epic of The Persian Kings
- Contemporary Landscapes: Li Huayi
- Lee Bontecou and Louise Nevelson
- DB Amorin Tracing the Veer
- Fabulous Fashionable Women
- The Tale of Genji
- Meaning in Color/Expression in Line
- The Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou
And dozens more over the last six decades.
Honolulu Museum of Art Attractions
There are many other fun activities for families at the Honolulu Museum of Art in addition to the galleries and exhibitions.
Tours- Docents are available for small private group tours for adults of the Honolulu Museum of Art. School tours are also available and can be docent lead when scheduled in advance. The Doris Duke Islamic Accented Seaside Estate can also be toured through the HoMA.
Robert Allerton Art Library- The library is only open on Wednesdays and by appointment. There is no additional charge to visit the library; however, the materials are non-circulating and for research purposes, in-house only. The library collection features 55,000 books, extensive biographical collection on artists from Hawaii and Oceania, auction catalogs from the early 1900s through modern times, and special collections that have restricted access.
Films- Independent films, documentaries are shown on screen in The Doris Duke Theater. This space is also used for live performance, concerts, lectures, and private rental.
Café and Coffee Bar- Open for lunch only from 11 am to 1:45 pm, the Café and Coffee Bar at HoMA is an open-air café surrounded by a tranquil garden and beautiful sculptures against a quiet waterfall. The menu features brunch-style dining and you don’t have to pay admission to the museum just to have lunch at the café. Wine and desserts are also available at the café.
Museum Shop- The gift shop at the museum features books, posters, toys, clothing, jewelry, and other souvenir items related to art, Hawaii, and the museum. All proceeds from the shop benefit the programs and collection preservation at HoMA.
Special Events at HoMA
The Honolulu Museum of Art hosts many special activities and events for families throughout the year that can be viewed on their calendar online; however, there are a few special events that happen annually that visitors can look forward to participating in.
Art After Dark- On the last Friday of each month, the HoMA volunteers organize the Art After Dark party, where the ground of the museum stays open late with free entry during the last hour. Each month features a different theme and specially curated exhibits.
Family Sunday- On the third Sunday of each month, the Museum is free of charge and offers programs for families, as well as fun entertainment all day long. This event is brought to visitors by the Bank of Hawaii since 2004.
Kama’aina Christmas- This black-tie fundraising event is the major event of the year for the museum and features entertainment, gourmet dining, and dancing during the festive gala.